Roberta Wilkinson and Matthew Kemp are PhD students in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford. They write and perform songs and musicals as Geologise Theatre.
Their song “Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter Extraordinaire” is the first of Geologise Theatre’s song series “She Rocks” about women geoscientists from history.
What do you work on?
We are PhD students in the department of Earth Sciences. Roberta researches earthquakes and the big faults that produce them. Matthew uses the seismic waves produced by earthquakes to map out the structures deep inside the earth.
Outside of our research, we write and perform songs and musical theatre shows about science as Geologise Theatre! We love the challenge of fitting complicated scientific information into the structure of a story or a song.
What is your typical day like?
Roberta: I use lots of different methods to investigate earthquakes so a typical day for me varies a lot. At the moment I spend most of my time at my computer, analysing images from satellites. In the summer you’ll find me in the field – camping in the foothills of a huge mountain range and spending my days mapping out the scars left in the landscape by ancient earthquakes. Or you might find me in a lab, analysing my rock samples.
Matthew: A lot of my work is based on the computer, collecting and analysing thousands of seismic waves to build models of the deep Earth beneath Alaska. I’m aiming to bring together ideas from both geology and geophysics so I also spend a lot of time collaborating and communicating with my colleagues across these different fields.
Why did you become a scientist?
Roberta: I always loved the idea that scientists can make a hypothesis and then test whether it’s true by collecting clues, like detectives solving a mystery! Earth sciences really appealed to me in particular because there are lots of opportunities to do fieldwork - I enjoy hiking and I always want to know the story behind the spectacular landscapes I visit.
Matthew: I always loved all aspects of science, but then I discovered Earth Sciences and I was hooked. It combines physics, chemistry, biology and maths in order to answer the big questions about how the world works!
When you were in school, what was your favourite subject?
We both loved Maths and Sciences, but also enjoyed arts subjects – for Matthew it was Music and for Roberta it was English and Drama. We are so pleased to have found a way to combine these interests by writing and performing musicals about science!
How do you relax when you’re not doing science?
Roberta: I love writing and performing our shows. Singing about science is a great way to decompress from doing it all day! I also like to swim and do art.
Matthew: I play bassoon in a wind orchestra and piano for an improv comedy group, and of course write songs with Geologise. I also love to watch TV and I’m a massive fan of Doctor Who!
Youtube: Geologise Theatre